It was fearsome thing up close, the walls and fences that divided Europe during the Cold War years. From a distance it sometimes appeared more benign — silvery ribbons of steel following the contours of the landscape. But the reality was plain — it was an apparatus created by autocratic governments for repression — and its dual purpose was to keep its own citizens imprisoned, and to limit the influence of western culture. Hundreds died trying to escape.
It was also a dangerous line in the sand between nuclear powers, and any incident along that line had the potential for triggering global catastrophe. I photographed the border in the 1980s, and I documented the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Mexican/American border 2016 — Photograph by Kirsten Luce (New York Times article)
The border between the United States and Mexico can appear similar to the old Iron Curtain with miles of steel fencing snaking through the undulating desert Southwest. It is not the Iron Curtain — it serves a very different purpose — but it, too, is a deadly and dehumanizing scar on the land.
The leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party proposes to extend the fencing across the entire border with Mexico and make it taller, more impenetrable. A beautiful wall, as Donald Trump says.
The problems of illegal immigration and the desperate flight of refugees seeking freedom will not be solved by a higher, stronger, more efficient — and deadly — wall. It’s a fool’s errand. And the antithesis of American values.
The East Germans euphemistically called their border fortifications the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or anti-fascist protective rampart. Trump’s beautiful wall is fascism — nakedly expressed, for all to see.